E-commerce for the little guy
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Toronto Computes,
$150 (Basic), $600 (Pro)
604-601-8000, 604-601-8001 (fax)
requires: Windows 95/98/NT, 16 MB RAM, 25 MB drive
space, Internet account
with Web hosting capability and FTP access.
For many businesses, the promise of the Internet is to
make the little
guy (gender-neutral) the equal of big business. As the famous New
cartoon pointed out, on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. Or in
this case, in the 'real' world, you might be a local corner store or
might be a multinational corporation. In cyberspace, it's all one and
Of course theory and reality are not always the same.
While many big
companies can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their web site,
a home-made web page will look-- well, home-made.
And while easy-to-use software like Microsoft
FrontPage, Symantec Visual
Page, or others have made it easier for non-professionals to design
web pages, they don't take many small businesses where they really want
to go-- to selling their products directly over the Web: eCommerce.
Vancouver's Multiactive Software, best known for their
Maximizer, hopes to fill that gap with easy to use ecBuilder. The
is available in two versions, a basic $150 version, and a $600 Pro
Their promise-- 'Get your business online in under an hour'.
It might take you more than an hour, but the software,
which was named
Best Internet Commerce Software at the Software & Information
Association's 1999 Spring Symposium, comes pretty close.
Using a series of wizards, it makes it easy for small
to mid-sized businesses
to customize an impressive online storefront, without needing to mess
the underlying HTML code. Storefronts support encrypted, secure
so customers can have worry-free shopping. Storefronts can include
of items, a shopping cart, sales tax and shipping information. It's
to create a home page complete with company logo and profile, complete
with contact information and a choice of 30 designs with customizable
Especially nice is the catalogue builder. Allowing up
to 2,000 items
(100 in the basic version), the Pro version makes it easy to subdivide
the catalogue into sections or product lines, and to include text
and graphics, sounds, and animations of the various products. Items
the catalogue can be automatically set on sale, with a specified
and for a pre-set period of time. Once the site is created, it's easy
keep it up to date.
Also well-implemented is the order and inquiry page--
assuming a merchant
has a pre-existing account to process credit cards, this can easily be
extended to the Web. A nice added touch is that the program can be set
to submit information about the new site to up to eight Web search
getting the word out at the same time that it gets your new site up and
A separate, but included program-- ecOrderDesk, helps
track sales and
to export information to accounting or spreadsheet programs.
The basic version is limited to 10 content pages built
using a single
template, while the Pro version expands that to 100 pages using
Trial versions are avaiable fo